Brendan Fisher

Associate Professor, Environmental Program, Rubenstein School of Environment and Natural Resources
Faculty Fellow, Gund Institute for Environment

I’m interested in stuff. On the research side of stuff, I’m interested in where conservation, human development and economics overlap. A guiding principle to my research is, Is the question policy (or intervention) relevant in the near term? In the wide world of sustainability science the word “applied” should get a gold star, another gold star goes to research that sheds light on practical solutions to our problems that can be implemented in the near term. Gold stars, and stickers in general, are good motivators for high quality work (I still feel this way despite Mrs. McDermott rarely giving me one in grade school). I teach courses on sustainability science, behavioral economics, environmental/ecological economics and research methods.

Stuff I’m interested outside of research and teaching include running, soccer, ice hockey, skiing, and spending as much time as possible enjoying the Vermont outdoors with my wife and children.

PhD, Natural Resources, University of Vermont
MSc, Environmental Change and Management, Oxford University
BSc, Civil Engineering, Bucknell University


Hilary Byerly

PhD Candidate, Rubenstein School of Environment and Natural Resources
Graduate Fellow, Gund Institute for Environment

I’m a bit like a horseshoe crab, or (on a really good day) Nick Offerman. I’m a generalist interested in using the tools of economics, psychology, and ecology to understand the weird ways we make decisions. My research applies behavioral insights to environmental decision making, particularly the choices people make about managing and enjoying nature. I’m also interested in how being in nature affects human wellbeing. Previously, I mapped and modeled agricultural development and drought vulnerability across India with the Tata-Cornell Institute for Agriculture and Nutrition. Prior to graduate school, I led the marketing efforts of Global Greengrants Fund, an international grantmaking organization. For four years I wrote about environmental projects in the Global South and used framing, anchoring, and nudges to garner support for our grantees. I also spent a season in an indigenous village in India working with grassroots leaders and farming everything from amaranth to zucchini.

A Colorado native, I’m happiest outside. I especially love skiing with my favorite people, enjoying a lukewarm beer on a mountain summit, and jogging (silent “j”) with my dog, Wilma.

MS, Applied Economics and Management, Cornell University
BA, Environmental Studies & International Affairs, University of Colorado

Claire McIlvennie

PhD Student, Rubenstein School of Environment and Natural Resources
Trainee, NSF IGERT Smart Grid

I’m interested in all things related to human behavior and our energy system. In particular, my research focuses on understanding how people use energy in their homes, how this is influenced by technology, and how we can use this understanding to create programs to save energy and manage the grid. The path to my current research has been somewhat unexpected and always interdisciplinary. I earned my BA in Psychology and Economics at Middlebury College, where the application of social science insights to motivate pro-environmental behavior intrigued me. Through my MSc in Environmental Change and Management I explored the impacts our energy system has on the environment and the role of human behavior in determining the future of that system. Building on these concepts, I then spent the last two years working in the utility industry to advance behavior-based approaches to managing energy use, experience that will form the foundation of my current research.

When not nerding-out on energy, you can find me running long distances or hiking, cooking (hopefully) tasty food, or in search of a good book and cup of coffee.

MSc, Environmental Change and Management, University of Oxford
BA, Psychology and Economics, Middlebury College

Ben Balmford

Lab Member-at-Large

I’m from across the pond, so I speak with a silly accent and get easily distracted by football (aka soccer) – be it watching or playing. When I am not doing that, my academic interests lie in providing for the planet without costing the earth, so we organised a symposium for really smart people to tell me how we can do just that (see here if interested).  As such I am interested in firstly really understanding just how much we rely on wild nature to do things for us, and secondly on how we can change human behaviour so we exploit the planet less. At Oxford I conducted research into the population dynamics of wolves, and evaluated how imperfect land sparing could be and still be better for biodiversity than land sharing, as well as beginning to educate myself in economics.  Currently I am furthering the work on imperfect sparing to account for more realistic population size/population viability curves, as well as working with Brendan to develop a bio-economic model to asses costs and benefits of wolf restoration in New England.

Outside of work, I take a keen interest in natural history (particularly mammals, but in the UK also birds); fail hopelessly at kicking (football) and hitting (squash) balls around but have a good time; and enjoy cooking food that at least I find tasty.

PhD (in progress), University of Exeter
BS, University of Oxford

Ranaivo Rasolofoson

Postdoctoral Research Associate

I am interested in the impacts of nature conservation on environmental and social outcomes. I use diverse approaches such as rigorous causal inference methods and participatory research. Using these different methods, I have looked at the impacts of community forest management and strictly protected areas on deforestation and human well-being in Madagascar.

PhD, Environmental and Resource Economics, University of Copenhagen
PhD, Forestry, Bangor University
MS, Sustainable Development and Conservation Biology, University of Maryland
BS, Wildlife Biology, University of Antananarivo, Madagascar

Nelson Grima

Postdoctoral Research Associate

I am engaged with ecosystem services work at different scales, studying human-nature interactions aiming to better understand the role ecosystems have over livelihoods. Including research on issues related to sustainability of natural resources use, wildlife and landscape management, policy decision making, and ecological and socioeconomic transitions in post-conflict areas.

PhD, Social Ecology, Institute of Social Ecology, Alpen-Adria University, Vienna (Austria)
MSc, European Forestry, (double degree), University of Eastern Finland, Joensuu (Finland) / University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences (BOKU), Vienna (Austria)
MSc, Forest Engineering, University of Lleida, Lleida (Spain)
BSc, Forest Engineering, University of Lleida, Lleida (Spain)


Lab Alumni

Dan Kopin – Undergraduate Research Assistant
Diego Herrera Garcia – Postdoctoral Research Associate
Charlotte Adams – Undergraduate Research Assistant
Haley Jean – Undergraduate Research Assistant
Charles Martin – Undergraduate Research Assistant